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Have you had the opportunity to view 'The Sound of Freedom?' It was a hard-to-watch portrayal of the trafficking of human beings, specifically children for sex trades. A woman, I’ll call her Kind and Well Dressed, claiming to represent a talent agency and preys upon a financially struggling single father of two cherub-faced children. He’s promised financial stability for his family. Papa reluctantly leaves his children to Kind and Well Dressed and is instructed to return in a few hours to gather the kids. Papa returns to find no trace of the children or Kind and Well Dressed.

Human trafficking is a well-hidden crime, exploiting millions of men, women and children worldwide and is right here in the U.S. This modern form of slavery preys upon the economically and psychologically disadvantaged and individuals from areas of political instability. Trafficking knows no race, age, gender or nationality. Survivors of trafficking have been groomed and coerced with promises of employment or romance and manipulated with violence.

Trafficked individuals are often farmed into legal and other illegal businesses as well. The list includes industries such as hospitality, traveling sales crews, agriculture, janitorial, construction, landscaping, factories, caretakers for the disabled, salons, fairs and carnivals, domestic and child care services, religious organizations, peddling/begging, drug smuggling and distribution.

Who are the traffickers? They are strangers, like Kind and Well Dressed, your next-door neighbor, Uncle Fred and yes, kids at school. There are survivor stories on the Department of Defense page. These are stories about your friends at school and Uncle Fred. Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2021 states show 33% of survivors reported being trafficked by family members and 28% by intimate partners. The internet was responsible for 65% of victim trolling.

According to the U.S. State Department, our country comprises 52% of the global trafficking industry with profits of an estimated $9.5 billion. In the U.S., more children are trafficked in the sex trades. Michigan ranks sixth out of the top 10 states. Our neighbor, Toledo, is ranked fourth for the largest recruitment of minor sex trafficking of kids with an age average of 13. This is due to the easy access to I-75, I-70 and the turnpike. Migrant smuggling does not constitute trafficking. With the avoidance of immigration laws, however, smuggled migrants could easily become vulnerable and trafficked prey.

The Feds reported the use of child labor in the U.S. rose 69% since 2018 with 835 companies employing 3,800.

The World’s Children Organization estimates that worldwide there are 168 million kids trafficked. Half of those children are in hazardous work environments endangering their physical and emotional well-being.

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs has a list of products likely produced by forced child labor as of September 28, 2022.

Trafficking indications

Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship? Has a child stopped attending school? Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior? Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts? Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse? Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing? Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive? Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care? Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to? Does the person appear to be coached on what to say? Is the person living in unsuitable conditions? Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation? Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

If you suspect an individual is being trafficked call the National Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888 or text 233733 or the Violent Internet Predator & Exploitation Task Force (V.I.P.E.R.) 734-240-7535 It could be a victim’s sound of freedom.

— Cynthia Vincent is a member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good. She resides in Temperance and can be reached at

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